Duke Ellington was inspired to write The Queen's Suite after meeting Queen Elizabeth at a private audience in London in 1957. It was later recorded, but this was no ordinary recording. Ellington's instructions were that only one disc was to be pressed and delivered to Buckingham Palace. It was not until the 1970s that the music was issued to the public. The piece attracted almost universal praise. One Ellington biographer, the late Derek Jewell, described the piano interlude Single Petal of a Rose as "Fit to be placed with the best of Chopin and Debussy".
This recording was made at the first public performance of Ellington's masterpiece at London's Royal Festival Hall on 23rd January 1989 in the presence of the Princess Royal. The work is played by a sixteen-piece orchestra, put together by the saxophonist and Ellington specialist Bob Wilber, who received a Grammy Award in 1985 for his recreation of Duke Ellington's music in the Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club.
The Queen's Suite contains six numbers: Sunset and the Mocking Bird with an orchestration built around the bird call. Lightning Bugs and Frogs, Le Sucrier Velours representing beauty, Northern Lights representing majesty, Single Petal of a Rose representing wonder and Apes and Peacocks said by Ellington to be "inspired by reading in the Bible about the gifts the Queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon".
The concert features a selection of other Ellington favourites: - Black and Tan Fantasy. - Take the 'A' Train. - Stompy Jones. - The Mooch. - Mood Indigo. - Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.